No Country For Women, a national campaign headed by three Brown University undergraduates—Shreena Thakore, Ria Vaidya and Rishabh Singh, are trying to fight and alter the ever present negative attitude toward rape and the blaming of the victim in India. They aim to do this through education, conversation and action.
They explain, "Behaviours such as victim-blaming, trivialisation of sexual assault, and normalisation of sexual violation are rampant in Indian society. These behaviours stem from various problematic attitudes, one of which includes the commonplace understanding of 'consent'. The cultural norm of arranged marriages make them transactions between families where the bond of marriage is taken as continual implied consent. Following this logic, marital rape is not acknowledged by the constitution and is excluded from social discourse. Another problematic attitude is symbolically tying the family honor to a woman’s chastity. Not only does this completely deny a woman sexual agency and enforce severe sexual policing, it has led to extremely horrifying cases where a woman is gang raped as a punishment to her brother/father for a crime the latter committed."
Shreena, Ria and Rishabh say that when you start asking basic questions regarding who committed the act, how it was committed, where it was committed and who it impacted, you start realising how big of a role class, caste, identity, politics, religion, law, social infrastructure and other sociocultural institutions tend to have in the entire thing.
We aim to change these problematic attitudes by translating education into action; by bridging the gap between academic institutions (where knowledge and theory regarding gender-based violence is explored in great depth) and the space of activism (where people have the passion and resources to bring about change, but may not necessarily be armed with the right knowledge).
"We are also building an entire curriculum of educational material (a workshop toolkit) that can be distributed to schools and organisations all over the country. To make sure the workshops are delivered well, we will hold volunteer-training sessions and give completion certificates. This will allow us to address spaces that we would otherwise have not been able to access, empower others by giving them the tools and letting them take charge, and hopefully create a nationwide impact." All of their workshops are free and they subsidise the conferences heavily so as to allow people with tight budgets to attend. The only funds they receive are through their crowd-funding website.
- But just how exactly do they plan on educating the country about rape? -
When we say 'education', we mean taking the discussion about rape beyond surface-level conversations which end at attributing the cause to sexual frustration and circumstance. We also mean developing key statistical and media literacy skills to challenge the prominent harmful misconceptions we perpetuate, such as the notion that rape is only carried out by uneducated, illiterate, rural men. Not only are such beliefs misplaced, they further enforce social divides based in class and caste. We discuss in great depth the various social forces behind gender-based discrimination and violence. We urge individuals to ask questions such as “what are newspapers not telling you?” and “what realities do those statistics not reflect?” so that they may begin to question their own implicit assumptions and perceptions. We wish to equip individuals with the required analytical tools to approach their own lives and social experiences with critical thinking and awareness.
You cannot design a solution unless you fully understand a problem. Because of a lack of comprehensive universal understanding regarding the roots of rape, the possibility of solution-generating is restricted to a very small domain. We wish to educate individuals regarding the socio-cultural context of rape through a combination of honing critical thinking skills, giving analytical and introspective tools, and providing new knowledge in order to kick start effective long-term solutions.
- They believe in a long-term solution, dubbed the 'D-3 philosophy' -
"The D-3 philosophy refers to 'Deconstruct. Dismantle. Develop.' It is the methodology we use to translate education into action."
Deconstruct: To deconstruct means to analyse a conceptual system and to expose its hidden assumptions. We begin the educational process by equipping individuals with the analytical and introspective tools required to critically analyse (ie deconstruct) the socio-cultural, political and economic institutions that impact their everyday life. Through this deconstruction, they begin to gain cognizance of the ways in which these institutions condone gender-based discrimination and violence.
Dismantle: To dismantle means to take a system or structure to pieces. Once these social systems and structures have been intellectually deconstructed, individuals can begin to dismantle them. This can range from something as seemingly simple as a tiny everyday act of resistance to a large-scale revolution.
Develop: Individuals use the intellectual tools they have been given to design and develop effective long-term solutions that tackle the problem of rape by tackling the institutions that sanction it; treating both - symptom and cause.
- They are also hosting a special conference on August 23, in Bangalore -
No Country For Women is organising a conference titled 'Beyond Rape: Locating The Self In A Gendered Society' for which Your Story is a partner. The conference will take place on Saturday, August 23 at the Leela Palace from 10 am to 5 pm. "Apart from the workshops on the complexity of gender-based violence, we are organising a conference titled 'Beyond Rape: Locating The Self In A Gendered Society' to facilitate in-depth introspection and analysis on the relationships between the individual, sociocultural institutions and the systemic perpetuation of gender norms. We are also about to launch a social art campaign where we circulate posters around the city and digitally which contain short anecdotes regarding people’s everyday experiences of gender-based discrimination," They go on to say.
It will facilitate in-depth introspection and analysis on the relationships between the individual, socio-cultural institutions and the systemic perpetuation of gender norms. It will feature guest speakers, open discussions, smaller group sessions and activities. It will cater to 150-200 passionate individuals; students, activists, change makers, social entrepreneurs and other interested individuals are encouraged to apply. Applications for the conference are available here.
It will allow individuals to explore the role of rape and gender within society, the formation of individual identity, the influence of social and cultural institutions, and how all these are deeply intertwined. Participants will be equipped with the analytical and introspective tools necessary to understand how small everyday experiences from their own lives as well as seemingly insignificant cultural artefacts that are seemingly insignificant are all part of a network of social systems that contribute to the problem of rape.